The NAACP's South Carolina office chose to cover a statue of George Washington during its annual rally honoring Martin Luther King Jr., drawing complaints from conservatives that the group was offending the legacy of the nation's Founding Father.
The state chapter of the civil rights group claims it meant no disrespect and only covered up the statue to provide a more suitable backdrop for speakers at Monday's event. Pictures taken at the event show the statue was completely covered on three sides by a wooden, box-like structure.
But those pictures prompted an outcry on conservative blogs. Tea Party activist Lloyd Marcus was among those who quickly wrote a retort to the NAACP's decision.
"I thought, you know, this is just totally absurd, totally ridiculous," Marcus told FoxNews.com. "I don't know if George Washington had slaves or whatever but ... George Washington was our first president."
Marcus, who is black, is a Florida-based activist who works with the Tea Party Express. He said the NAACP should stop putting its energy into apparently symbolic statements like this and start doing more to address problems like high-school dropout rates in the black community.
"These are things the NAACP should be dealing with rather than running around covering up statues of dead white guys," Marcus said.
The King rally was held near the State House in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina NAACP director Dwight James told The State newspaper that his group was not trying to offend Washington's legacy. He said the NAACP wanted to use the structure around the statue as a backdrop for speakers and a graphic, which incidentally was not finished in time to be displayed.
The newspaper reported that most rallies in the capital use the statue of America's first president as part of the natural backdrop -- though the NAACP has tried to cover it up in the past. Marcus said he didn't buy the state chapter's explanation.
But Joanne Jones, vice chairwoman of the Charleston Tea Party board, said she assumes the NAACP was not intentionally disrespecting a founding father. She said the decision was just "surprising," considering how image-conscious the group is. "I would have thought they would have thought it through," she said. "They must not have had any alternative."
Karen Martin, founder of the Spartanburg Tea Party in South Carolina, said many local Tea Party groups just aren't paying attention to the flap in Columbia.
"We really don't care about what the NAACP did," she said. "They lost their credibility to be any sort of reasonable voice for Americans."
The South Carolina NAACP did not return a request for comment.
The Columbia statue incident wasn't the only controversy involving the NAACP on the Martin Luther King holiday. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage drew criticism from the group after urging its members to "kiss my butt" over the fallout from his decision to skip the group's MLK Day festivities. In the end, the GOP governor on Monday attended a breakfast in King's honor, though it was not sponsored by the NAACP.